Michael Avenatti indictment: Charges could bring sentence of more than 300 years

ByABC7.com staff KABC logo
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Michael Avenatti could face 333-year sentence
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The Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service announced the filing of a 36-count grand jury indictment against Michael Avenatti.

LOS ANGELES -- The Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service on Thursday announced the filing of a 36-count grand jury indictment against Michael Avenatti, the attorney famous for representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in legal battles against President Donald Trump.

The indictment filed against Avenatti alleges he stole millions of dollars from clients, didn't pay his taxes, committed bank fraud and lied in bankruptcy proceedings. If found guilty, Avenatti could get a sentence of more than 300 years in federal prison, United States Attorney Nick Hanna said Thursday.

"If convicted of the 36 crimes alleged in the indictment, Mr. Avenatti would face a statutory maximum of 333 years in federal prison plus a mandatory two-year consecutive term for an identity theft count. Of course, the ultimate sentence would be to a judge following a conviction," Hanna said.

"Mr. Avenatti failed to meet his obligation to the government and now faces severe consequences if convicted of the crimes in the indictment, including significant jail time, substantial fines and the forfeiture of his assets," IRS Criminal Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge Ryan Korner said. "As the tax filing season comes to an end, the indictment announced today sends a clear message that no one is above the law."

Avenatti will be arraigned April 29. He said Thursday he will plead not guilty.

The new charges say he embezzled from a paraplegic man and four other clients and shuffled money between several accounts to deceive them.

On Twitter, Avenatti wrote that any allegation that he mishandled money owed to clients was "bogus nonsense."

The charges also say Avenatti pocketed payroll taxes from employees of the Tully's coffee chain that he owned.

Earlier Thursday, Avenatti responded to the indictment on social media.

"For 20 years, I have represented Davids vs. Goliaths and relied on due process and our system of justice," he said on Twitter. "Along the way, I have made many powerful enemies. I am entitled to a FULL presumption of innocence and am confident that justice will be done once ALL of the facts are known."

Avenatti appeared in a Santa Ana courtroom April 1 after being charged with filing bogus tax returns to fraudulently obtain $4 million in loans from a Mississippi bank and pocketing $1.6 million that belonged to a client.

The high-profile lawyer had been arrested a week earlier in New York, where he was charged in a separate case with trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike. He posted $300,000 bail and said he expects to be exonerated.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.